Going Public, by Boris Groys

It may seem paradoxical, but the on-line publisher and aggregator e-flux has started a new publishing operation, on paper. In collaboration with Sternberg Press, e-flux is sponsoring a new series of small books under the banner of the e-flux journal, the first volume being a collection of critical essays by a regular contributor to the journal, Boris Groys.

His Going Public is as quirky and enlightening as his earlier books, ranging from design theory to Duchamp to religion to the museum. The introduction, “Poetics vs. Aesthetics,” sets a tone that balances art history and critical thinking, looking for a tool to think about artists as producers (a poetics) rather than looking at the reaction to their products (aesthetics)

Groys is particularly good at placing contemporary art in the history of modern art and modernity, without sacrificing the unique qualities of the contemporary situation. He also balances artists and critical figures like Greenberg with European (particularly Russian) art and thought, broadening the discussion in useful ways.

I read the book on the plane on my way to give a talk at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, and found myself scribbling quotes from Groys all over my text, since what he had to say was not only compelling but pertinent to the day’s topic, the continually expanding field of sculpture. It’s the one book of criticism that I’ve read recently that sparked that kind of reaction (I had hopes for Rosalind Krauss’s Perpetual Inventory, but after a very interesting introduction of just a few pages in length, the collected essays look backward rather than forward both in terms of the art covered and the ideas espoused).

—Glenn Harper

Going Public, by Boris Groys
New York: Sternberg Press, 2010.
Paperback, 169 pages, $15. ISBN: 978-1934105306

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